Trekking means walking on certain types of terrain. It is an activity that anybody can practice, no matter how much you weight or if you are not in excellent shape. As long as you can talk, you can go trekking. This sport allows visitors to walk through different places, be in contact with nature and it is cheaper than other sports, because the equipment needed is pretty basic.
To practice trekking you need a good and fitting pair of shoes, proper clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen, a cap or hat, compass, a map, lots of water, food, knife, flashlight, first-aid kit and a backpack to carry all these things.
Some of these items maybe seem an exaggeration, but it is always recommended to avoid accidents and danger, the weather in the region changes very fast so it is always best to prevent any unwanted scenarios.
The location to go trekking is up to you, and you and your group can go walking without a guide because the paths are well delimited and there are signals all along them, but it is strongly advised to give notice to authorities or administrative points of the place you are heading and the time you plan to be back. Never go alone and without giving out your destination to someone.
Once you begin walking keep yourself hydrated. Same as when riding a bike it is recommended to have a drink of water every fifteen minutes, pay attention to your own body while you're walking and drink water whenever you need to. At the same time, get some rest every five minutes, it will allow you to recuperate your breath.
In Patagonia there are almost a hundred different routes for trekking, and only in the Torres del Paine National Park you can find more than fifty paths to choose from. That is why is necessary to inform yourself on all the paths available and, later on, about the ones you have chosen to avoid getting lost.
In Torres del Paine, the most important paths are:
Path to the Towers: this excursion lasts one or two days, and it begins in the Laguna Amarga office, which is right by one of the main entrances to the park. From there you walk for about thirty minutes to Las Torres hostel, where you can get some rest and organize other kinds of activities such as horseback riding. The trip continues to the Ascensio River, and after a four hour walk you get to a lagoon, right below the towers. There are camping areas there, right by two refuges: Las Torres and Chilean.
Path to the Glaciar and Valle Francés: this journey is done in three days. The shorter way begins in Pudeto, where you can cross the Pehoé Lake on a boat to get to the Pehoé refuge. From there you walk for about four hours to the French Glacier, which is right next to a beautiful valley. The trip to Pehoé can be made from the Administration Office in the par, where you walk five hours to the Pehoé refuge.
Salto Grande: in Pudeto you can begin the trip to the Salto Grande or Big Waterfall, where a two-hour walk takes you to the Nordenskjold Lake. Right there, you can get a privileged view of the French Valley and the Paine towers.
Macizo del Paine Path: it's the longest excursion, taking up to ten days. It begins in Laguna Amarga, where you walk for about eight hours to the Paine Lake. Three more hours take you to the Dickinson Lake and walking right by the Los Perros River for about four hours, you get to a glacier, where you can camp. The following section is rather dangerous, covered in snow and without visible demarcations. It is known as the John Garner path, and it is recommended to go through it with a guide. It takes four hours to cover and it ends in the Grey glacier. Six hours to the south end in the Grey refuge, and four more hours by the Grey Lake end in Pehoé, where you can see the French Valley and the Paine towers. This trip ends walking back to the Administration Office, walking for five hours or taking a boat that crosses the Pehoé Lake to Pudeto.
W Path: it is a six-day circuit during which you walk right by the Nordenskjold Lake and the Ascencio River to the Torres del Paine. Then, you walk to the Paine Horns and the French Valley, where you can see the big Paine Towers from afar and get closer to the Grey Glacier. The trip back is done by boat, across the Pehoé Lake.
Laguna Verde: a trip for the day. You go through forests and get to see smaller lagoons in the area. You get to see the whole of the Paine towers, by the southern border of the Sarmiento Lake. At the end of the trip, you get to Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon). Right by the lagoon there is a hostel where you can grab something to eat and recuperate from the long walk.
Torres del Paine is not the only place where you can practice trekking, in almost all the parks and national reserves there are paths established. Most of them won't charge you an entrance fee, but they do have a cooperation bonus that you can always pay, which is never over the five dollars.
Some paths are days-long; they are circuits that include visiting a more extended territory. Because on those trips you will need a tent and set up a camping space, be careful and do not leave trash around that can damage the environment, and keep your group inside the established areas.
Getting out of them can lead to unwanted consequences, such as meeting and disturbing animals or getting to areas infected with hanta virus. You should also be careful with the litre, a type of bush that lives in the south, that can give you allergies or a terrible rush if you touch it.
Further south, in Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, you can go trekking on ice, especially the circuit on the Grey Glacier. This practice is more complicated and demanding than normal trekking, so you should take into consideration your experience trekking and your physical estate before deciding on going to this area.
Other known paths, in southern Chile are:
Puelo: following the path next to the Puelo River, the path crosses to Argentinean territory until you reach the Puelo Lake on that side of the world.
Caleta Santa María: in Tierra del Fuego, you can explore the Darwin mountain chain, which is a place barely touched by human hand. It's a three-hour long trip that ends in the Yendegaia Hostel.
Navarino Island: In Puerto Natales, where the weather is demanding and changes rather quickly. This is a remote and not signalized path, so it is recommended for experts only. It's a humid place, where the winds are strong and it can start raining at any moment.
To climb and walk on the glaciers, you should contact a travel or tourist agency that can provide you with an instructor or someone to go with you on your trip, because it is very dangerous to go up a snowy and frozen mountain without someone who knows the area.